Our world is filled with a wide variety of people, including all kinds of readers. Some of us struggle to truly extract and understand what we read, while other experienced readers don’t think twice about their innate reading comprehension strategies. It’s important to understand that the ultimate goal of reading is comprehension, and that it can’t be done passively — it’s an interactive and strategic process that needs to be internalized and personalized.
With some patience, anyone is capable of mastering this complex skill, and here’s how.
Comprehension: Why Do We Read?
Have you ever thought about why we read? While on the surface the obvious answer may be to enjoy, ultimately we are reading in order to understand what we read. Those who are more advanced and experienced readers often don’t appreciate the innate skills they have, but reading is in fact a highly strategic and interactive process.
What Are Some Reading Comprehension Strategies?
Reading comprehension strategies are crucial in helping students stay engaged in what they are learning, and actively think about what they are reading. Here are some of the best reading strategies for success.
Be Aware Of What You Know & Don’t Know
When reading, it can be very helpful to use the existing information that you have to help you make sense of the entirety of the text, providing a framework for the text. This is a key strategy for reading comprehension.
While we’ve always been told to never judge a book by it’s cover, when it comes to reading comprehension strategies, making predictions about a text can help set up expectations for what’s to come. These predictions can be altered as the reader continues on.
Thinking About Thinking & Taking Notes
While this might sound strange and rather confusing, it’s actually pretty straightforward!
Take control of your thoughts and think about your thought process, and how and why it’s working in such a way. Taking notes can seriously help you stay on track and can serve as a useful tool later on.
Summarize Main Ideas — What’s The Goal?
By summarizing the main ideas of a text and putting it into our own words, it can help us better understand what we’re reading.
Ask & Answer Questions
Just like anything in life, we need to constantly ask ourselves questions. Both asking and answering can help us focus on the meaning of a text.
Visualize The Settings & Focus On Structure
Illustrations such as pictures, graphs, or charts can be helpful for readers to create their own mental images when reading, even where they don’t exist.
Work Together — Cooperative Talk
By engaging in discussion periodically, students can share struggles and ask questions about what they’ve read and can provide a support system for each other, with everyone adding what they took from the text.
Reading Comprehension Strategies For Narrative Texts
Make A Story Map: Break Down The Structure
A story map that breaks down the structure of a text can be highly beneficial to students’ success, including identifying the setting, characters, plot, and theme. This can help provide a clearer picture of what the text entails.
Use Your Own Words
By retelling a text in your own words, it forces you to create your own conclusions, and in turn, truly understand what you’ve just read.
Use Clues & Read Between The Lines
Readers can use clues, such as the title of the story, as a way to make predictions about the text and make sense of what they’ve read.
It’s important to ask a variety of questions about the text that forces yourself to answer it in a variety of ways, such as using existing knowledge to answer.
Reading Comprehension Strategies For Expository Texts
What Is An Expository Text?
If you’ve never heard of this type of text — no worries. An expository text is one that explains both concepts and facts with the goal of explaining and informing readers.
In general, such a text includes clear visual cues, including headings and subheadings to mark the structure of the information.
An example of an expository text would in fact be this very article you’re reading right now — which as you can see includes all the expository text elements — such as pictures, headings, subheadings, and an overall a clear structure.
Touch On The Main Ideas
By touching on the main ideas with a summary including the key details of the text, it can allow readers to better understand the text without feeling too overwhelmed by large amounts of information.
Break It Down Visually With Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers can help provide a visual idea of the key concepts in a text. By seeing them in a graphical, visual form, it can help readers remember and understand them on a deeper level.
What Are Some Reading Comprehension Programs?
There are many reading comprehension programs available to help students improve their skills and practice these important strategies!
Some of these programs include: Read Naturally Live and Read Naturally Encore, which are mostly independent. There’s also Read Naturally GATE, which is mostly teacher led.
Some of these programs are available as an audio program, others are applications that can be used on your smartphone, and others are printed books with additional audio support.
How Can Reading Comprehension Strategies Be Effective?
If teachers explain to students why certain strategies are important and can help comprehension, it can help make these reading comprehension strategies more effective.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Monkeys aren’t the only creatures that mimic what they see. When a teacher demonstrates how to properly apply a reading strategy, it can help students do the same.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s important that these strategies are practiced together in class so that students can learn to eventually do so on their own.
Why Is It Important To Teach Reading Strategies?
The ability to thoroughly understand a text is the ultimate goal of reading, and is needed for obtaining new knowledge, as well as expressing ideas through writing and discussions.
Reading comprehension can be seen in those that are capable of evaluating situations, connecting new information to what they already know, and adjusting that knowledge accordingly.
Those with good reading comprehension skills are also capable of touching on the most important points of a text and reading between the lines.
What Are Some Other Useful Tips For Reading Comprehension?
There are no shortage of ways to improve your reading comprehension, and it’s also a never-ending process.
One of the best ways to improve is to focus on reading actively — meaning to be as involved as possible in your reading, perhaps by taking notes as you go, or even highlighting certain parts of the text. Even stopping to ask yourself questions as you read can be helpful. Oftentimes we read in a passive way, simply reading and re-reading the text without a clear-cut purpose.
In order to successfully make sure that you are reading as actively as possible, know your purpose before you start to read. Determine what you know, and what you’re about to read. Consider how the text relates to other course material, and why it’s been assigned to you.
Monitor Yourself While Reading
When it comes to reading, you are your own boss, and are the only one who can control if it’s effective or not.
If you see that your mind is starting to drift off in other directions — such as what you just saw on social media or what you’re going to have as a snack — perhaps it would be helpful to answer those needs, such as stopping for a set amount of time until you’re ready to give that text your undivided attention.
Your Work Is Never Done — Dig Deeper!
One you’re done reading, the chapter is to be continued! There are many effective reading comprehension strategies that can help you understand a text once you’ve finished reading, and can help you remember the text on a more long-term basis.
Some ways to continue the process include writing a summary or outline of the text, discussing the text with a classmate, or even calling a family member with no previous context to the text to tell them all about what you’ve just read. Consider asking yourself some crucial questions about the text or even creating a concept map, illustrating the text for yourself.